Daylight Saving Time
When we change our clocks
Rationale and original idea
First there was Standard time
Changes and irregularities
Worldwide daylight saving
Worldwide daylight saving
Worldwide daylight saving
Early adoption in law

Daylight Saving Time has been used in the United States and in many European countries since World War I.

During World War I, in an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power, Germany and Austria took time by the forelock, and began saving daylight at 11 p.m. on the 30th of April, 1916, by advancing the hands of the clock one hour until the following October. This 1916 action was immediately followed by other countries in Europe, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Turkey, as were Tasmania, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba. Britian began 3 weeks later, on 21 May 1916. In 1917, Australia, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia initiated it.

The plan was not formally adopted in the United States until 1918. 'An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States' was enacted on March 19, 1918. [See law] It both established standard time zones and set summer DST to begin on 31 March 31 1918. It placed the country on Daylight Saving Time for the remainder of WW I, and was observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919. The law, however, proved so unpopular (mostly because people rose earlier and went to bed earlier than we do today) that the law was later repealed in 1919 over President Wilson's veto. It became a local option, and was continued in a few states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island) and some cities (New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and others).

During World War II, President Roosevelt instituted year-round Daylight Saving Time, called 'War Time.' (from 2 February 1942 to 30 September 1945). [See law] From 1945 to 1966, there was no federal law about Daylight Saving Time. So states and localities were free to choose whether to observe Daylight Saving Time and could choose when it began and ended. This, however, caused confusion -- especially for the broadcasting industry, and for railways, airlines, and bus companies. Because of the different local customs and laws, radio and TV stations and the transportation companies had to publish new schedules every time a state or town began or ended Daylight Saving Time.

On 4 January 1974, Nixon signed into law the Daylight Saving Time Energy Act of 1973. Then, beginning on 6 January 1974, implementing the Daylight Saving Time Energy Act, clocks were set ahead for a fifteen-month period through 27 April 1975.

Inconsistent use in the U.S.

In the early 1960's, observance of Daylight Saving Time was quite inconsistent, with a hodgepodge of time observances, and no agreement when to change clocks. The Interstate Commerce Commission, the nation's timekeeper, was immobilized, and the matter remained deadlocked - until 1961. Many business interests were supportive of standardization, although it became a bitter fight between the indoor and outdoor theater industries. The farmers, however, were opposed to such uniformity. State and local governments were a mixed bag, depending on local conditions.

Efforts at standardization were encouraged by a transportation industry organization, the Committee for Time Uniformity. They surveyed the entire nation, through telephone operators, as to local time observances, and found the situation was quite confusing. Next, the Committee's goal was a strong supportive story on the first page of the New York Times. With the general public's support rallied, the Time Uniformity Committee's goal was accomplished but only after discovering and disclosing that on the 35-mile stretch of highway (Route 2) between Moundsville, West Virginia, and Steubenville, Ohio, every bus driver and his passengers had to endure seven time changes!

The Uniform Time Act

By 1966, some 100 million Americans were observing Daylight Saving Time based on their own local laws and customs. Congress decided to step in to end the confusion and establish one pattern across the country. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 (15 U.S. Code Section 260a) [see law] which was signed into Public Law 89-387 on 12 April 1966, by President Lyndon Johnson, created Daylight Saving Time to begin on the last Sunday of April and to end on the last Sunday of October. Any State that wanted to be exempt from Daylight Saving Time could do so by passing a State law.

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 established a system of uniform (within each time zone) Daylight Saving Time throughout the U.S. and its possessions, exempting only those states in which the legislatures voted to keep the entire state on standard time.

In 1972, Congress revised the law to provide that, if a State was in two or more time zones, the State could exempt the part of the State that was in one time zone while providing that the part of the State in a different time zone would observe Daylight Saving Time. The Federal law was amended in 1986 to begin Daylight Saving Time on the first Sunday in April.

Under legislation enacted in 1986, Daylight Saving Time in the USA

  • begins at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and
  • ends at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October

In most of the countries of western Europe, including the countries that are members of the EEC, Daylight Saving Time:

  • begins at 1 a.m. GMT on the last Sunday of March and
  • ends at 1 a.m. GMT on the last Sunday of October

Observance of Daylight Saving Time elsewhere in the world is highly variable. See Worldwide daylight saving.

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